Chef Akhtar Nawab is the chef/owner of Alto Calidad and Choza Taqueria in NYC, and Fero in Birmingham, AL.
Raised in Louisville, KY, Chef Akhtar’s culinary roots were established at a young age, enjoying his mother’s traditional Indian cooking. While a student at the University of Illinois, Akhtar took his first restaurant job at 19 years old; bussing tables and washing dishes at local restaurant. After realizing his passion for cooking, Akhtar enrolled in the California Culinary Academy, graduating in 1996 and setting upon his culinary journey. His first major professional influence came while working under renowned chef Loretta Keller at one of San Francisco’s top restaurants, Bizou. After his time at Bizou, Akhtar continued his training, working with notable San Francisco chefs Traci des Jardins at Jardiniere and Roland Passot at La Folie.
In 1998, Akhtar moved to New York City to work under chef Tom Colicchio at the renowned Grammercy Tavern. Four years later, Akhtar was tapped by Chef Colicchio to join him in opening Craft, which went on to earn three stars from the New York Times in 2001, and winning the James Beard Award for “Best New Restaurant” in 2002. The following year, Akhtar assumed the chef de cuisine position at Craftbar, where he was ultimately promoted to executive chef.
Hungry for a new challenge, Akhtar accepted an executive chef position at The E.U., a then-struggling gastropub in NYC’s East Village. Through Akhtar’s leadership, guidance and vision, the restaurant received attention and acclaim for his original menu of modern pub fare, with European tradition and American sensibility.
In February 2008, Akhtar achieved a career milestone, opening his own restaurant, Elettaria, where his menu was a reflection of his own Indian ancestry and highlighting seasonal American ingredients. While Elletaria earned a loyal following, Akhtar’s versatile culinary vision was just starting to take shape, with several other projects on the horizon.
Following a four-year culinary director role at La Esquina, Akhar grew a new love for Mexican cuisine, and led to his most recent venture, Alta Calidad; a modern Mexican hotspot serving small, shareable dishes with a creative touch. Earning almost instant acclaim, Alta Calidad was awarded Michelin’s esteemed “Bib Gourmand” award in 2018, given to restaurants serving exceptionally good food at moderate prices.
Chef Akhtar’s other culinary projects include Fero (Birmingham, AL), serving locally sourced Italian with handmade pastas, his fast-casual concepts Choza Taqueria (NYC & Birmingham, AL), a counter-service taqueria serving Mexican street food, Indie Fresh (NYC), a health-focused concept delivering healthy meals on-demand and the soon-to-be-opened Prathers on the Alley in Washington D.C.